PT Krystal Variant
Flies With a Story

Fly Tied By: Warren Frank
Designed By:
Warren Frank
Story By: Warren Frank
Home: Minneapolis, MN

Warren is a logistics manager for a large grocery company in Minneapolis. He enjoys fishing with his four kids, and the entire family enjoys hiking and camping. He took up the fly rod initially as a teenager, put it down for a couple decades due to college and career, and took it up again about eight years ago.


"Early one evening I had only an hour or so to fish..."

I have been somewhat conflicted about what to call this fly. Frank Sawyer was the original tier of the venerable Pheasant Tail Nymph pattern. And everybody and their brother has tied it with some sort of soft hackle. I saw a pheasant tail emerger tied on a scud hook in the Cabelas catalog, and I liked the look of it, so that's where the scud hook came from. I thought to add a few fibers of Krystal Flash for the wing, but I doubt I'm original in that thought. Eric Peper gave me the idea to put a glass bead on the hook. I thought of calling it the "Mutt Fly", but because of its ancestry I decided to call it the Pheasant Tail Krystal Variant. I'm sure Mr. Sawyer would hardly recognize his fly in this variation of his original PT Nymph.

Img65.jpgI had an interesting evening this past summer with this fly. My family enjoys camping in Southeastern Minnesota, generally in the state parks. Southeastern Minnesota is part of the "Driftless Region," a 3,000 square mile area also spreading into Southwest Wisconsin and Northeast Iowa, which was bypassed by the glaciers of the last ice age. It is an area of rugged limestone topography, cold springs, forests, and excellent trout fishing. Several of the state parks have excellent trout streams. Of course, being state parks, the streams get some of the heaviest fishing pressure of any trout streams in the state, over 7,000 angler-hours per mile.

At the park we were in, the campground area is only 50 yards or so from the stream, so that particular stretch of stream gets fished heavily, primarily by bait fishers. Throughout the day there are people fishing this campground stretch; folks fishing for trout for the pan, dads and their kids, and kids old enough to fish on their own. I usually leave this stretch for them to enjoy, and go to some other, less fished areas.

Early one evening I had only an hour or so to fish, and there happened to be no one else on this reach of stream, so I decided to fish there. I didn't have hopes for noteworthy fishing, just an hour on the stream before the bats came out. The stream in this stretch makes a wide bend with rip-rap along the outer bank, and the current has created a deep channel, making ideal holding water for the trout.

Since the sky was darkening, and there were no fish rising, I tied on the PT Krystal Variant, with a split shot and strike indicator, and started fishing at the bottom of the bend. Almost immediately I was onto a fish, a pretty 12" brown. Quickly fought and released, I again cast to the rip-rap, and was soon onto another fish. During the course of my hour or so, I caught 12 nice fat browns in one of the most heavily fished 200 yards of stream in the state.

I attribute my success that evening to two things. First, I have come to the conclusion there's fishing pressure, and then there's fishing pressure. While there may be thousands of angler-hours put in on those 200 yards, I think the trout have come to learn that worms are not to be trusted, and subsequently they don't get caught very much on bait. I caught more fish in that hour on a fly than had been caught on that stretch all day on bait. So while the State authorities may conclude this stream is heavily fished, I no longer believe that bait fishers do as much damage to the trout resources as I had previously. A reasonably good fly-fisher can put a lot more pressure on the trout, by actually catching them, than a bait fisher does by casting his worm to wary trout. 

Secondly, I attribute my success to the PT Krystal Variant. Underwater, the fly has a good silhouette. The Krystal Flash and glass bead reflect light like the air bubble diving caddis bring down with them. Most caddis dive underwater to lay their eggs, rather than skittering across the surface as most anglers assume. In low light conditions, this fly does a wonderful job of imitating these types of caddis. It is equally effective in cloudy water after a rain. However, I have seen fish run for cover when this fly is used in clear water on bright days, like a firecracker went off nearby.

Easy to tie, realistic looking, and effective to fish, what more can we ask for in a fly?

--Warren Frank

PT Variant as designed and tied by Warren Frank

 Photo by Peter Frailey

Order of Ingredients:

Hook: Size 14 to 16, Tiemco 2487 scud hook
Bead: Small pearlescent glass bead
Thread: Rust colored 8/0
Tail: 3 to 5 pheasant tail barbs (sample shows 5)
Body: Pheasant tail barbs, wrapped
Rib: Fine copper wire
Wing: Six pearlescent Krystal Flash fibers
Hackle: Speckled hen saddle, with barbs stripped off on one side
Thorax: Peacock herl


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